Monday, July 31, 2006

Back to the Grind

Thank you all for participating in Discussion Week. That was fabulous! I love to see some more of the people who are "out there", and get to hear your views. I think I'll do that again sometime soon.

But for now we're back to our regularly scheduled programming. Not much even today--I'm only at work for 3 hours and then I have the kiddo for the rest of the day today, and all day tomorrow. I'll try to pop in tomorrow with something interesting if I can.

My guilty secret: I spent several hours this weekend reading The Half-Blood Prince (yep, Harry Potter) when I could've been writing. I'd been deep in writing TMT when it was released, and have put it off reading it since then because I knew it would suck me in. When I saw it on the library shelf on Saturday I just...couldn't...resist. I am really impressed with J.K. Rowling; in my opinion her quality level has kept up, unlike many series authors. She has sustained and even improved. She has succeeded in creating a vivid alternate world that is so very easy to fall into.

Anyway, I will not succumb this afternoon. Because I'll be home I should have a good hour and a half or two hours during naptime, and I am going to work on Book 2 today. On the drive home from swimming last night I glazed over completely, drifted off into Book 2-land mentally (good thing I wasn't driving, huh?) and realized that the second scene had the completely wrong tone. I had started off with suspense and then switched right into comedy/sibling rivalry. It's okay to have some of that, but to keep the tension I really need to keep things more Serious that early. So I'm looking forward to tackling that scene, reworking it, and starting in on the next today.

Must get to work now!

Medieval Word of the Day (and didn't you miss it? {g}): foretoken: A premonitory token; a prognostic.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Discussion Week Day 5: Life Balance

We're starting off with 2 quotes from my luverly day planner, both of which apply to yesterday's discussion on goals.

"It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan." --Eleanor Roosevelt
"It's never too late--in fiction or in life--to revise." --Nancy Thayer

I like that last one very much.

Today's topic is one that we all deal with, every single day of our lives.

How do you fit writing into your busy life? How do you try to achieve a balance?

I'm really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this one, because I know everyone has different approaches.

Mine works for now, though it might not at a later stage (never too late to revise). I have a small child, a full-time job, and a husband who not unreasonably wants to spend time with me in the couple of hours we have together. So how was I going to fit writing in, when I decided to get "serious" about it again?

Lunch hour.

Sometimes people just don't believe me on this one, but I really did write the second draft of Murderess almost completely on my lunch hours. I developed the ability--because I had to--to shut the door and instantly be in "writing mode", spend an hour working hard on it, and then open the door and go back to work. I also write whenever I have free time at home, and it worked out well that during a crunch period, when I was trying very hard to get my draft done before Surrey, my husband had a temporary evening job. For those weeks I was able to add about 5-6 hours a week of writing time.

For now that's all the time I use, because the Other Stuff is too important to cut into, and because I can't get up early and write like some people; I already am sleep-deprived. But I've proven to myself that I can work this way.

How about you? How do you do it?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Discussion Week Day 4: Goals

First, our odd fact for the day: I share a dentist with Evel Knievel.

Strange, huh? But I happen to live in Evel's hometown (and no, that wasn't his birthname). Today is the beginning of the 5th annual Evel Knievel Days, in which we are the hosts to hundreds of motorcyclists and Evel fans, daring stuntriders, people who set themselves on fire and jump out of windows, and...umm...well, that's enough, isn't it? {g} Actually the big news this year is that Robbie Knievel, Evel's son, is going to do a jump in the style of his father here on Saturday. Should be interesting.

Anyway, back to Discussion Week. For non-writers this time, I'm going to ask you to imagine that you are a writer, and see what your answer would be.

Your Question: What are your goals as a writer?

Okay, I hear you out there. "Duh. Be a writer."

Not that simple. In your dreams, how far have you pictured?

--Finishing your book (a good book)?
--Getting an agent?
--Getting a contract?
--Having your book published all over the world and making a gazillion billion dollars and being a household name?
--Writing 10 (20? 30?) books, all to universal acclaim?

I bet most of us have at least imagined that far, right? But at least the last 2 aren't goals. Those are dreams. I'm not trying to be negative--it does happen occasionally--but the chances of being one of those gazillion billion authors is...not likely.

So, goals. Goals are something you have to stretch for (stretch HARD), but they are reasonable and attainable. When you sit down and look at it with an honest eye, what are your goals in writing?

My ultimate long-range goal, and I think it is attainable in the end if I S-T-R-E-T-C-H, is to make a career of writing. Not support the household on it, but be able to quit my day job and write while my husband continues to work. (supporting the household would be lovely, but that's a dream--if it happens, bonus) Fortunately, this breaks down fairly easily into a sequence of goals. Fortunately again, I only have to do one at a time.

Goal #1: Finish the first book. (CHECK)
Goal #2: Query the first book. (IN PROCESS)
Goal #3: Secure an agent.
Goal #4: Secure a contract. (agent would actually do this)
Goal #5: Write second book. (IN PROCESS)
Goal #6: First book is published; publicize.
Goal #7: Secure contract for second book. (agent again)
Goal #8: Write third book.
Goal #9: Second book is published; publicize.
Goal #10: wash, rinse, repeat until ultimate goal is achieved, however many years that is. Continue to wash, rinse, repeat to keep ultimate goal alive.

Each one of these goals is a struggle in itself; each one of them is hard. I know there will be many stumbling blocks, and times that I lose faith that it will happen. But if I don't give up, and I keep improving with each book, I think this goal is attainable.

What about you? What are your dreams, and what are your goals?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Discussion Week Day 3: The Hard Bits

First, a slight diversion from Discussion Week to say that I saw CRASH last night...and OMG, if you haven't seen it go run out and rent it now. I didn't think I'd like it too much, as I tend to be self-protective when it comes to movies. I purposely shelter myself a little and don't seek out war movies, violent movies, etc. However. {ahem} This movie blew my socks off. It messed with all my preconceptions, fascinated me, and dragged me into the storyline(s). It reminded me of things that I know, but forget: the fragility of life; the dramatic effects we have on each other with our smallest actions, even without knowing; the knowledge that you don't have any idea what that person's life is like just because of their appearance; the unexpectedness of even our own behavior; the fact that no one and nothing is simple. Go see it.

Hokay, back to Discussion. (And c'mon, join in! I'm very happy with those who responded, yay, but it was 4 of you out of the 40+ who came here yesterday. More! More!)

Today I've got two different branches of question, one for writers and one for readers. Feel free to answer one or both.

Writers: What is THE hardest type of writing for you? Dialogue? Description? Transitions? Action?

Readers: What is your least favorite type of writing to read? Do you skip over descriptions? Scan through dialogue? Flip through the fight scene until you get to the dialogue? Or do you even notice those things? (hopefully if the writing's good, you don't. What if it's not? What bugs you?)

I'll answer both.

In writing, it's love scenes that kill me. Not sex scenes necessarily, just the romantic stuff, the parts that are supposed to make the reader feel the love between these characters. They always turn out dopey and sappy the first time I write them. Then I strip out all the sappy stuff, and they're just bare-bones and boring. It's only on the millionth pass--trying to add humor, unique personal references, balance--that I have any sort of satisfaction with them at all, and they're still my least favorite scenes to read (of my own stuff). Guess I need to practice those more!

In reading, I've always skipped right over long descriptive passages, particularly of landscapes. I have no head for directions--never have--and I very, very quickly get lost with somebody's description of "at the top of the hill there was this, with a blah to the east and a river running blah". I don't care. Tell me there was a hill and a river, and I don't need to know how, precisely, they were situated. In fact I do better in reading if you don't tell me those things, because then I have leeway to paint them in myself, which I prefer, or just keep them vague and get to the action/dialogue. Horrible thing for a historical fiction writer to admit, huh? I've gotten much better at adding description into my own work with practice, but I do make sure to always break it up with Other Stuff so people don't skip. And I don't think you'll ever find a description of what's to the east and what's to the west. {g}

Okay, you next. Writers? Readers? Both?

(you'll notice I'm skipping the Medieval Word of the Day; that's just for this week. It'll be back on Monday)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Discussion Week Day 2: Favorites

Thank you all for posting! I love to know who's out there. (If you didn't post an intro yet and would like to, please join in. All the posts this week are open to be added to.)

Today is another easy one. I'm thinking we'll get harder as we go along--first one toe in the pool, then two...

So your assigned question for today (hard part: ONLY ONE ANSWER):

--Who is your favorite author of all time? Who do you come back to when you want to see just how well it's done? Who draws you into their world so completely, in just one page, that you get lost in it and forget where you are? Who do you want to emulate?


I'm like most of you, I imagine; many authors pop immediately to mind. I have my standby authors that I keep handy copies of, and more than one fits this description. But when I think hard, when I really evaluate the one I've received the most reading pleasure from, the one I want to be most like, the answer will probably surprise you.

Mary Stewart.

How many of you have read Mary's books? {squinting for hands out there} She was a huge bestseller in the 50s and 60s, and I first encountered her in a long-forgotten box of my mother's things: a tattered copy of Wildfire at Midnight, with a lurid cover of a 50s girl silhouetted by a bonfire, a mountain in the background. I devoured it. I hunted for more. I remember the day in Berkeley that I found, with glee, two anthologies of Mary's books, with 4 or 5 complete novels in each volume. I think I wept. It didn't matter that they were 50 lbs each, or that I had no car that day--I lugged them around happily, clutched to my chest. I still have them, and dive into them, any story, whenever I feel the need. Later I discovered the Merlin series, and loved her even more. I have read The Crystal Cave how many times? 50? I'm not exactly sure, but some incredible number.

What do I love so about Mary's writing?

--It's first class, for one thing. Well crafted, well balanced, well paced. She knew her stuff. There is humor and pathos, and universal themes and feelings. Her books read just as well today as in the 50s.

--Her stories resonate with me. They're not straight romances--they're suspense, romance, coming-of-age, mystery, thriller...all of that. They're adventures, and I love to experience them. Sometimes they involve magic or the supernatural, sometimes not. The Merlin books aren't straight historicals either. She wrote her own STORIES, and not to convention.

--Her heroines (and heroes, in the case of the Merlin books) are real and human, with faults they must overcome, with their own individual points of view, but always with humor, and always smart. I wanted to BE them.

--She balances detail well; just enough description to paint a place for you without bogging down or slowing the pace. I still want to visit Crete just because of Mary's description of it.

That enough? {g} I could probably go on and on. But I think you've got the point, and I've had enough of the floor. Now it's your turn.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Discussion Week Day 1: Intros

After reading over last week's posts all in a chunk, it struck me that they were just a wee bit...didactic, hmmm? C'mon, admit it. Just a wee bit.

So I was feeling kinda preachy.

This week, I'd like to try something different and try to have some discussion.

For this to work, though, y'all are going to have to chip in and say something. Even those who normally just lurk! I know you're out there. Now's your time to speak up, if only for a post or two. I promise not to hunt you down after or even require anything of you beyond a few words.

Let's kick off the week with a general introduction and even more general question.

Please post with:
--Your name (online name is fine)
--Something about yourself (anything you'd like to share, an odd fact maybe)
--Why you write or are interested in writing

So I'll start.
Name: Susan Adrian
Something: I was a ballet dancer for 8 years and danced in a professional company, mumble-something years ago.
Why I write: Because I'm addicted to it. I've always loved losing myself in a story--a book, movie, or just a scenario in my head--and now I've discovered that I can actually create a world to escape to. And, OMG, others can read it and join in my world too! I don't think I could ever give it up now.

Your turn! Please respond!

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Professionalism Rant

I deleted the Chick-Lit link I posted yesterday because I read it this morning...and I didn't like it at all. There was nothing new said, and the only thing expressed was a general uninformed negativity about books and the world that I see too often anyway. No need to link to that sort of thing.

But that's not what today's rant is about. Today I want to talk about one of the most important traits any writer--any businessperson, any salesperson--can have: professionalism.

I work at a small university in a small town, and unfortunately I see many people who don't understand how to act with professionalism, and how it can positively affect their lives and their work (and the lives of the people who have to work with them!). I think it's the same with being a writer, at least one who hopes to make a career of writing. If you approach your writing and the submissions/publication process with professionalism, I believe your chances of success will skyrocket. Here are my basic "rules" of acting in a professional manner, and how they apply to writing/publishing:

  1. Set goals for yourself, and always meet your goals.
    I am proud of the fact that I don't miss deadlines at work. I set realistic goals, and if I tell someone their publication will be printed and on their desk to take to a meeting, it will be. This is important when you're writing, but will become even more important when you land a contract and suddenly have to write to someone else's schedule. Build a reputation for reliability.
  2. Be courteous and respectful, to everyone.
    This is one of the big ones that gets ignored, but is truly critical. In a business environment, it means be nice to the administrative assistants, the student workers, the interns, and that annoying peer as well as your boss. This is (a) good karma and (b) just smart. On a purely practical level, you never know when someone will be able to be of help to you, and make or break that deadline. In writing it means be courteous and respectful to fellow writers, to agents and editors you query, AND to agents and editors who rejected you. It's a small world, people.
  3. Don't play games with people. Be honest.
    Tempting as it is to lash out at that co-worker or try to work yourself into a better position by subterfuge, don't. Be straightforward. Don't be shy about presenting the best of yourself, but don't try to manipulate. In querying this means don't try to be sneaky and tell an agent your book is something it isn't, just to get them to read a few pages. It won't help to lie.
  4. Take great care with your work. Work hard.
    Do your absolute best. Never let anybody doubt the quality of your effort. In writing they might not like your premise, or maybe your writing isn't strong enough yet; but don't you dare let your stuff, query or the manuscript for your 3rd book, go out with errors because you didn't take the time.
  5. Present yourself well.
    If you go to a conference, take care with your appearance and behavior. Don't be sloppy. Don't get stinking drunk and get sick on a prospective agent. {g} In emails and phone calls, use your best professional manners.

It's all common sense, really, isn't it? So why don't people DO these things on a regular basis? It's mystifying to me...

Medieval Word of the Day: grot: A fragment, particle, atom. every grot = every whit.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Happy Dance

So I've discussed previously how I'm NOT chasing the market, and I'm glad not to be. I just wrote a book that I would love to read, and that I think other people would love to read.

But I admit I did a happy dance when I read this on Kristin Nelson's blog last night:

"Not that it’s any big surprise but historicals are hot and editors are actively looking for original voices—both for big women’s fiction historicals but also for what I call “straight” historicals (especially if they have some sort of intrigue or mystery bent).

Think a more commercial Umberto Eco."

Oh, man. TMT is exactly, exactly that. Women's fiction historical/commercial historical. And "original voices" is great too! Woo-hooo. Perhaps (crossing fingers madly) I've unwittingly hit the timing just right...

Medieval Word of the Day: stathelfast: Firm, steadfast.
(ooh, good word!)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A Beginning

Yay! I started Actual Writing for Book 2!

I only managed a paltry 135 words, because I'm still swimming in the research at this point. Every word brings up more questions, more things I just don't know yet. (okay, I know what town they're in, what day it is...what the heck castle would that be? let me go look up quick. browse, browse, I think it's this one. okay, next line about their uncle--blast, what IS uncle in Spanish? I know this, I know this--hmm. go look it up. Okay, Tio. On to the next line.)

But I already was able to begin to express the relationship between the 3 sisters, and since relationships (and conflict) are the most fun anyway...yay!


There was some talk over at Books & Writers about critique partners/readers. I know I've touched on this before here and there, but not all in one place. So,

How to Choose Critique Partners (aka critters)

To me, critters and readers are a vital part of the process of writing. I wouldn't feel comfortable sending a book off to agents without knowing that somebody besides me had read the thing.

I expect my critters, in general, to:

--tell me if the story "hangs" together
--point out plot holes or inconsistencies (why did Davy's eyes change from green to blue?)
--check pacing (did they want to keep turning the pages? was there anywhere it sagged?)
--note any oddities in language that pulled them out of the story
--tell me about character (did they like Katherine? did they hate the villain? why? Were their feelings mitigated or changed at the end?)
--say, as a reader, if the ending and the story arc was satisfying. Were they happy when they closed the book?

These are from regular critters. "Expert" critters I expect to really just look at their portion of expertise. I had someone read TMT to check that my descriptions of the countryside and flora and fauna of northern England were correct. She also had some excellent comments about the little bits of dialect I have, since she's a native-born of that area. I had a monk look at the scenes in an abbey of his order. I had an archaeologist look at the scenes in the abbey that he's excavating. These readers may or may not have other comments, but you really need them for their expertise.

So what things do you look for in a critter, to give you all this feedback?

1. Honesty. This one is absolutely imperative. It's up to you whether it needs to be honesty couched with tact, or plain-speaking brutal truth, but you need to know what they really thought. Not what you want to hear.

2. A critical eye. I don't think critters need to be writers; a reader's perspective can be just as valuable (that's who you're selling to in the end, after all!). But it won't help you if they read it and say only "it was great!". They need to be able to evaluate it and be able to express what they liked, and what they didn't. How it could be improved.

3. Patience. I doubt this one is just me. I tend to pepper my critters with questions after they finish a read, at least for a day or so. They need to be able to deal with questions.

4. Expertise. If they're one of your expertise readers, but of course.

What do they get out of doing this monumental task for you? Well, if they're writers, you might offer to read their work critically in exchange. This is almost always a good deal. If they're experts, they get the thrill of having been asked, and being able to talk about their expertise. (you laugh, but this seems to be enough) If they're readers and like your genre, they get to read a book, hopefully a good one, when no one else has had a chance to see it yet.

And of course, they get a mention in your acknowledgments when you do get published. Never forget your critters in the acknowledgments; they helped you get this book out to everyone else.

Medieval Word of the Day: selcouth: Unfamiliar, unusual, rare; strange, marvellous, wonderful.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Devil Question

Warning: I'm going to talk about The Devil Wears Prada, and there might be spoilers. If you haven't read the book or seen the movie, best skip on...

Hubby and I saw the Prada movie this weekend. Neither of us has read the book (though we'd both like to now, to see the differences at the least). Afterwards, we had quite the discussion about what was meant by the title--at least as pertains to the movie. Who, exactly, was the Devil here?

Miranda? Well, that's the obvious choice. She's the power figure, always making impossible demands. She's rude to everyone and extraordinarily self-centered. She actively tempts Andy to make a choice to advance herself at the expense of another person. Sounds like the Devil, maybe? But she also is presented, in the movie, as being human. She is visibly upset at the prospect of her divorce and protective and worried about her children. She smiles when she sees Andy happy at the end, and recommends her for a job. Would a true devil do any of those things?

Christian Thompson? This is the guy who seduces Andy, all the while helping to plan the takeover of her boss. He tempts her as well, more than once, with the famous, wealthy lifestyle. He even mocks her boyfriend. I would think he'd be a pretty good candidate for at least a demon...and he could wear Pradas too.

Here's what my husband thought: Take Miranda as a form of God--all-powerful, asking the impossible of her "subjects", striving for perfection (in a sense) at the magazine. Christian (ironic name) is the Devil. They're battling each other for the power of the magazine, with Andy as a pawn. In the end, in that scenario, God beats the Devil by a little trickery, and holds on to the power.

"But she hurts Nigel, badly, in the process," I argued. "God wouldn't do that."

"Look at the Old Testament," he countered. "Were none of God's followers hurt?"

I don't know. It's not what was meant, I'm sure, but it is certainly an interesting reading, something fun to play around with. Heck, I haven't read this much into something since lit classes in college--but it made me remember how much I liked doing that, sometimes. (Scary thought for an author, though. What WILL readers find in your works, that you hadn't even considered?)

Julie commented that Andy was the devil. I hadn't even considered that. Perhaps another take?

What do you think?

Secret Society Girl release

Diana Peterfreund's Secret Society Girl is out today! Diana is an excellent blogger, and I've been following her success on her site for a while now. She's a smart cookie with the writing advice, and I'm betting it's a great book. Just ordered my copy from B&N. Check it out!

I've got a busy morning, so I'll come back later and post. Topic for discussion: who really is the Devil in the Devil Wears Prada? Is there one? {g}

Medieval Word of the Day: dearworth: Worthy of high estimation, highly valuable, precious, costly.

Monday, July 17, 2006

More ranting: balance

Okay, more on the rant from last week. The flip side.

It was NOT about you (except for that one person it was about, but I know she doesn't read this blog, so you're all safe).

I was truly amazed how many of my writer friends identified with that rant, and thought it either was about them or could be. Nearly all of them. Wow. Apparently I have hit smack on another writer insecurity:

I do not work on writing as hard as I should. I am not a "real" writer.

This is B.S. This is just your guilt and insecurity talking. If you are taking time out of the rest of your life on a regular basis to work on writing, you are a writer. If you need to write, if you get itchy when you stop writing, you are a writer. Do you think about your characters while you're doing other necessary life tasks? Do you get excited at a new bit of research, or a plot development? Uh-huh, that's what I thought. Writer.

I sincerely believe that you do not have to write every single day to qualify as a writer. You do have a life; many of you have kids and spouses and jobs. Those things are vitally important and your responsibility, and you can't give them up completely to sit at your computer for 8 hours a day.

Does it sound like I'm arguing the opposite side of what I said before? Well, I'm not. What I said (or what I meant) was that you need to be committed to writing. You need to take it seriously. And most important, if you want to succeed in the end, you need to not give up. Don't give yourself guilt for living your life, just include writing as one of the important things.

There is a balance here, people. Find the balance. And stop guilting yourself over what you haven't done. Do the best you can at all parts of your life, stay focused, and TRY. That's all it takes.

Medieval Word of the Day: iwurche: To work; to make; to do.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The giving up rant

This is my desktop picture today:
There. Now that we're all relaxed, I'm going to rant.

You know who bothers me? Who really, really pisses me off? People who say they want to be writers, but don't want to do the WORK.

I had a friend once who said she wanted to be a writer. In fact, she was working on a book, off and on. More off than on, but sometimes we all have periods in our life like that, right? That's okay as long as you are committed and get back to it, keep at it. But here's the thing I realized, after a while: she quit every time it got hard. Every time.

Writing is hard. When you first start out, it's like motherhood--no matter what everyone else tells you, you think, deep down, that it's going to be easy for YOU. Your child will sleep through the night from birth; your book will flow effortlessly from your fingertips. Same delusion.

There were times during the course of writing my book that I hated it. I hated that I spent every single lunch hour locked inside my office staring at the screen. I hated that I could spend 3 days on a scene, and then realize I had to throw it all out because it was crap. I hated that I had to revise, and revise, and revise, and revise again. This, all this, did not make me stop.

I credit much of the discipline I have to my early ballet training. From the ages of about 10 to 16 I danced at least 3 hours a day, every day except Sunday. From ballet I learned that you must practice past the point of exhaustion, over and over, to succeed--and that you will fail sometimes no matter how hard you try. Failure is a part of the process. The trick is that you keep going and try it again.

So it frustrates me when people stop at one failure, or even one difficulty. Writing IS like ballet--it's an art that must be learned and practiced. No one is born being good at ballet or writing. How can you be a writer, how can you even hope to achieve success in this very difficult, competitive field if you aren't willing to work, and learn, and be utterly committed to the process?

I wish that friend well, but I can tell you that she will not be a successful writer. Nor will the others I see who give up at the difficult places, who give in to the lure to go try another book instead of finishing this one, or "take a year off" when they get a rejection or two. You have to be driven to do this crazy business called writing. And you have to learn to never, never give up.

Medieval Word of the Day: awede: To become mad, furious, or frantic; to lose one's senses.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

More dirt! Bring it on!

Ooooh, I am so itching to start writing this book. The more I dig, the more juicy events and tangles I turn up. By luck or chance I have hit upon an excellent story. {huge g}

Medieval Word of the Day: mulier: Of a child: born in wedlock, legitimate. Also (esp. in Ecclesiastical Law): legitimized by the subsequent marriage of the parents.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Path

This is an interesting time for me.

First, of course, is my own drama: The Murderess's Tale, which I worked on for 5+ years, is Out There, being considered by my hand-picked agents. Right now this translates as a long wait, punctuated by bursts of adrenalin when I check email.

The other, better drama is watching my friend Vicki Pettersson's impending success.

I've known Vicki for a long time: when she was writing SCENT OF SHADOWS, when she was diligently editing it, when she was searching for an agent herself. I squealed when I heard she'd got one of the best agents (the same week she found out she was pregnant with her first child, but that's our Vicki). I got a breathless, ecstatic phone message from her when she signed a three-book deal with Harper Collins. (I should've kept that one!) I've talked to her as she's gone through the publication process, getting her edit letter, writing her second book and sending it off, working on the cover art and copy...

Throughout she's been the same: hard-working, diligent, smart, dedicated to writing and succeeding, supportive of the rest of us. Those of us who know her are not surprised in the least that her dreams are coming true.

What WAS a surprise to me--and should NOT have been--is that (okay, ready for the shock?) the process does not get easier once you get an agent. Once you get an editor and a contract. Once the book is accepted. Apparently you still worry, doubt yourself, and keep trying to make it better. You just worry about different things. Will I sell through? Will my second book be as good?

From the early signs, Vicki really shouldn't worry. Kim Harrison read her book and loved it (see the interview here where she mentions Vicki's book, second to last question). Her publisher is firmly behind her and is seriously promoting SCENT OF SHADOWS (see Publisher's Weekly mention). (Go buy it next March!) She is good, and she is going to be big, even if she hasn't accepted it herself yet.

How very lucky I am to have her as an inspiration, right there before me as I start on the same path.

Medieval Word of the Day: friendrede: friendship.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Thoughts while listening to Mendelssohn

Yesterday hubby and I went to a string quartet concert...and as is usual for me, I spent almost the entire time thinking about writing. For some reason the classical music starts, I listen closely for about 5 minutes, and then my mind drifts. It's not that I don't like the music--I love it--it's just...I'm not sure exactly. Somehow no matter the composer, live classical music puts me firmly in the medieval mindset, and I happily daydream about plot and characters, and imagine scenes. It's quite productive, actually, although I don't write anything down.

Isabella (Isabel? Bella? I'm not sure yet) was very present in my mind yesterday. She's the youngest of 3 princesses, and apparently is rather more outspoken than her sisters--and less worried about consequences, and appearances. This should be fun.

I also realized, though, that this book will be quite a bit more challenging than TMT in terms of structure. My MC is a real-life historical character, and I can't just make her do whatever the heck I/she wants to do. We have a basic script we need to work within: major events, locations, when her children were born, when she died...I have a lot of freedom with this character, since she's not well-recorded as far as I know, but I also have restrictions Katherine didn't come with.

I also have to figure out how to make, or find, a story arc WITHIN her lifetime story. I've already discarded the usual plot devices historical fiction writers use to frame, because they ARE usual. No, she will not be telling her story to a monk at the end of her life. No, she will not be on her deathbed gasping the tale to a favorite grandchild. I also don't particularly want to just--poof--end the story at her death, and that's it.

My current plan is to research the main facts as well as I possibly can, then just start writing and see where it takes me. Trust in the process, as I did with TMT. Trust that the real story, the one under the facts, the whole arc, will come alive in the writing. Then we'll see what Isabella really has to tell.

Medieval Word of the Day: stubble-goose: A goose fed on the stubble. (c1386 CHAUCER Cook's Prol. 27 For of thy percely yet they fare the wors That they han eten with thy stubbel goos. 1708 W. KING Art of Cookery 77 So stubble Geese at Michaelmas are seen Upon the spit, next May produces green. 1816 W. TAYLOR in Monthly Mag. XLII. 37 Geese..are eaten young, under the name of green geese,..They are eaten adult, under the name of stubble geese.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Village Approach to Publishing

Ooooh. Agent Jennifer Jackson just posted an excellent essay called "The I in Team" over on Romancing the Blog, about the entire crew involved in making a book successful. Go check it out and absorb it!

Making the Connection

Yesterday I started in on the research for Book 2--I went to the campus library and got some general 14th-century overviews to bone up on John of Gaunt and all the political shenanigans that were going on. Oh, and ordered "John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Leon, Duke of Aquitaine and Lancaster, Earl of Derby, Lincoln, and Leicester, Seneschal of England". (Have I said how much I love interlibrary loan?) I started making a list of all the characters I want to include and investigate, and noting down intriguing plot points.

And I hit paydirt right away, in the first book. Woo-hooo! I came across a historical notation that my two main characters were involved in a huge, dramatic (traumatic) event with their father when they were 11 and 12. It has the makings of an excellent beginning, would start with action AND set the scene for all that comes later. And it would pull the readers right in. Heck, it pulled me right in to the research book. I got all giddy.

I also had a rather odd sensation that I've experienced before a few times; I wonder if you have.

I'm still deciding which of the two sisters will be my main POV character. I think I know, but I haven't quite committed yet. As I was reading last night I had the strangest feeling that I was really watching this event happen. I was there, just hovering over them like a spirit. More, I knew that I could choose one of them and slip into her skin, inhabit her, see her life through her eyes. I could feel them, and their interest. Was this one more receptive to me? Did this one want to tell her story more than the other?

I do wonder sometimes about this connection, in writing historical fiction, between the writer and the character/historical figure. I wonder if we travel in time through our minds, somehow. I wonder if we are ghosts to them, or they are to us. I wonder how many of those eerily correct hints and guesses we make are real.

Anyway, I'm excited about the new book. If it comes together like it is shaping already in my mind, it will be fabulous. Oh, and Isabella is the one who wants to talk to me so we'll keep on with the research and see where that goes.

Medieval Word of the Day: louke: a boon companion.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


I was going to do a craft post today, but Vicki distracted me with writer T-shirts. So now all you're gonna get are cool T-shirt links.

The Muwahahahaha writer's shirt

Off the Villain writer's shirt

Geeky Medieval Richard II shirt

Perhaps tomorrow I will talk about actual writing and such.

Medieval Word of the Day: sweven: A dream, vision.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Fireworks and the 4th

When I was small, fireworks were a scary thing.

My mom thought they were scary, so I did too. My mom thought they were too loud, so I did too. She had been in the path of a stray firecracker when she was 10, and had lost some of her hearing as a result--her fear was real and based in experience, and my dad's tepid enthusiasm could not stand against it. Then personal fireworks began to become illegal in California anyway. My mom was relieved, and I didn't mind too much.

When I married we still lived in California, so we didn't do our own. We dutifully went to the local show, oohed and aahed, and went home.

Then we moved to the Fireworks Capital, here in Montana. And my husband, along with nearly every other man and many women here, fell in love with fireworks. Just about everything is legal here. You can do rockets, professional-looking blasts that fill the sky, shapes, fireworks that twist and twirl and zoom and BOOM and...

Man, he has fun. And my mom and stepdad moved here too, and my stepdad has joined in with full vigor. And my mom? She still doesn't like them. She still puts her hands over her ears, even for the little ones. But somehow along the way I've managed to shed her fears, and I don't think I ever really had any of my own. I sit with my daughter and laugh when the big ones go off just above us, cheer when Daddy and Opa set their tandem rockets just right, and oooh and aaah all night.

Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July.

Medieval Word of the Day: falding: A kind of coarse woollen cloth; frieze.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Nasty Reviews

Rosina Lippi (also known as Sara Donati) has an interesting post up today about reading your own reviews--the overwhelming to urge to do it and the inevitable reaction, to focus on the negative ones and skip over the positives.

Apparently neither of these things go away as you progress up the writing career path. {sigh}

I know already that I am struck with this weakness. Say I get 5 critiques of a chapter: 4 say some variation of "OMG, I loved it!" and 1 says "I thought it was a little weak on the dialogue". I will so skip right over the 4 and obsess about the dialogue, if I let myself.

That's the secret, and Rosina knows it too. You can't let yourself do that, or you'll go crazy. It all goes back to the "Listen and Reflect" method. I'm not saying you should ignore bad reviews or critiques if they strike a chord with you after some distance.

Of course it may be different when/if (let's go back to a positive when) my book is published. The scale is so much grander. Instead of 10 people reading my book, it could be a thousand. It would be so easy, in a spare moment, to pop over to Amazon and see what those readers, those new minds encountering my words, were saying. I probably wouldn't be able to resist the call either. I just hope I would be able to keep my head, and my perspective, intact...

Medieval Word of the Day: archwife: ‘A wife of a superior order’ (Tyrwhitt); a strong or masterful wife, a virago (‘Mannweib’ M├Ątzner).